Findmypast.co.uk have recently released a new record collection, the Militia Attestation Papers 1806-1915, containing indexed images from The National Archives series WO96. According to The National Archives website:
The Militia was a part-time voluntary force. It was organised by county and existed mainly to help defend Britain and Ireland.
Modern militias were created by the Militia Act of 1757 and have been through many changes since. They were absorbed into the Territorial Army in 1908.
These records only contain details for other ranks and not officers. According to the findmypast news article the records were created when the men joined up and “were annotated until the solider was discharged so provide full details of time in service. And, since the militia recruits were part-time, there are details of the jobs the men undertook for the rest of the time.”
Like other service records there was a medical examination involved in the attestation process so the records include a physical description of the individual including details of height, weight, chest measurement, complexion, eye colour, hair colour and distinctive marks, and marks indicating congenital peculiarities or previous disease.
So what’s in it for me…
This collection is one of those collections that I will need to go back to time and time again, as you never know who might have spent time in the militia, so anyone of the right age will need to be checked.
Some initial searches however did turn up a couple of interesting GASSON entries. I wasn’t really expecting to find either of them although one was more unexpected than the other.
The records were for two of my 2x great-uncles George GASSON and William James GASSON. Although they were brothers they don’t seem to have signed up together and their army careers were quite different.
George GASSON spent six years in the militia, and spent some time in South Africa. William James on the other hand was only briefly in the militia before transferring to the regular army. I knew that William James had spent time in the army from his First World War service record which showed he had served prior to 1914.
Tragically William James died in 1915, and is remembered on the war memorial in the church at Sayers Common, West Sussex. I have no idea whether George GASSON served during the First World War, I would think he probably did, but I need to check that.
When they attested they both listed their mother (Mary Ann GASSON) as their next of kin and not their father George Thomas GASSON who was by that time in an asylum. The interesting thing is they both give her address as Little Leigh Cottages, an address which I haven’t come across before.
I haven’t been able to locate where Little Leigh Cottages were/are yet. One entry records this as being in Hurstpierpoint, Sussex and the other as Cuckfield, Sussex. Perhaps it is somewhere between the two or maybe one is a postal address, with letters being directed to a nearer Post Office in a different parish. I can’t find it on any recent maps, so I may have to spend more time working on locating this one.